Friday, 22 October 2010

The Power of Story

Interesting isn't it, how Jesus used stories when speaking to the various gatherings and crowds. Mark 4:33-34 records the fact that Jesus used parables all the time, though it seems he did later unpack things for his closer followers in due course.

So that leads to a question: why didn't the gospel writers include more of the explanations? Only a few of the parables are expanded out for us to benefit, for the rest we have to go figure!

It seems the gospel writers adopted the same approach as Jesus. Perhaps they too realised the power of story, that such a technique could work far more effectively than trying to lay down cold facts or propositions. Maybe they reckoned that their readers needed to be subject to the same 'filter' that they and the crowds had been (the kind alluded to in 4:10-13).

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Secret Believers

The book 'Secret Believers' by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen makes for compelling reading. Most of the book is in a story format, walking the reader through the trials and joys for Christians living in Muslim majority countries.

For a view of Islam that is fair and balanced yet without ignoring the reality of what goes on across the world, this is a great book.

The story sets the scene for the authors to issue four key challenges to Christians, especially us in the West:
  1. Do we view Muslims as enemies? Or are we seeking to win them for Christ?
  2. Are we going to seek revenge when attacked? Should we not offer forgiveness instead?
  3. What would happen if we accepted the challenge of Islam by striving as Christians to imitate Christ?
  4. Are really convinced we are in a spiritual war? If so, shouldn't we commit to a life of prayer?
I cannot disagree with their summary. To understand what they are really getting at (and avoid potential mis-understanding) you will need to read the book for yourself.

The stakes are certainly high - we are surely called to rise to the challenge.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Can I have a drink of water?

Many of us know the story of the woman at the well, in John 4. It gets going with the simplest of questions: "can I have a drink of water?". Amazing isn't it that one of the most simplest of liquids, H2O,carries so much potential. And when it becomes object of a request, as in this encounter, it opens up even more possibilities.

Here Jesus makes himself vulnerable and dependant on another person (and a somewhat questionable other person at that). It is a powerful moment. It prepares the way for her salvation and salvation potential for the whole neighbourhood.

Many people around the world today are also asking 'can I have a drink of water?'. For them the need is acute, access to clean water being a daily struggle. The simple liquid that is a necessity of life can actually be quite difficult to obtain. For those of us who have the means, how are we responding to their request?

I am told that today is 'Blog Action Day' with a theme of 'water', hence this post. It makes sense for us all to concentrate some thoughts on such a basic substance, since after all, we all need water each and every day. It is thus a uniting substance for humanity (and indeed all life).

So whoever we meet, be they friend or foe, someone you would want to associate with, or someone you would rather not, perhaps consider getting started with the question 'can I have a drink of water?', and see where it leads.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Great Rescue Operation

On the 12th October 2010 the rescue of the Chilean miners finally became a reality as the first miner was winched to the surface. Trapped over 600m below the surface, thirty three working men have endured 69 days imprisonment due to the collapse of the mine's tunnel system.

During this time a vertical escape shaft has been carefully drilled, eventually allowing an escape capsule to be lowered into the pocket where the men are gathered. After some testing of the mechanisms, a veteran rescue expert was lowered down to assist the men into the capsule and enable them to be lifted to freedom.

Extraordinary measures have been taken to reach these men, culminating in sending a man down to effect the rescue. That man, whoever he was, became the saviour of the miners. Thanks to him, the miners are re-united with their families.

Each of us finds ourselves trapped by our own wrongdoing, life choices and attitudes. We may realise this is the case, but it is no use, since there is no way out. Somehow we manage to eek out an existence, but the reality is that on our own we are doomed. Hope of ever being re-united seems lost.

Yet God will go to great lengths to enable us to be saved. He will create a way, and send a man to come down to rescue us. That man must be prepared to descend to the very bottom of the pit of humanity in order to reach us, but that is exactly what he does when he allows himself to go to the cross.

I'm sure various lessons will be learned from the Chilean mining disaster and the subsequent rescue. Perhaps it also gives something of an illustration of how the cross works, some kind of language to try to express the atonement.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Timescales and Productivity

Elijah comes across as something of an action hero, with a ministry marked by high profile activities and events. Yet in reading the highlights of the story I wonder if we lose sight of timescales.

1Kings 18:1 says 'After a long time ...'. Somewhere between two and three years he had to wait, apparently. Did he stay with the widow of Zarephath (and her son) all that time? What did he do while the pause button was pressed?

From a ministry point of view, it all seems very unproductive. Surely there were campaigns to be staged, urgency of God's message to be proclaimed and all that?

Of course I am deliberately being somewhat tongue in cheek. There is an urgency to the Gospel, and Western Christians can be quite good at sitting around letting the world go by instead of finding & doing their part in the overall work. Yet we can lose sight of God's timing, which may in fact seem to have long stretches of apparent non-productivity ...

... until its time to climb up Mt Carmel, of course!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Thinking Globally

1 Kings 8, Solomon is dedicating the temple. Newly built, it can now be a key focus for the Israelites, something to turn towards when praying and so on. The whole spiel directs attention to the temple where God can surely be found.

Yet whilst much of speech concerns the Israelites, it is not limited to them. In v41 he goes global in the hope that foreigners from distant lands will seek God out as well. This is not just for the few, but ultimately 'so that all the peoples of the earth may know'. It is also generous: 'do whatever the foreigners ask of you'. In other words, rather than adding to the greatness of the Israelites and their achievements, it opens the possibility for God to touch the lives of others across the world freely and graciously.

Mission does well to focus on the local context, but always has global possibilities.